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Rebels’ loss deserved lead news slot

Swish. Swish. Swish. … Clank.

Sounds of three stations sinking baskets while one ricochets off the rim regarding coverage last week of the UNLV Rebels runnin’ out of steam in the NCAA, leaving Las Vegas with a case of March Sadness.

Playing the Rebels’ 73-62 loss to Illinois in Tulsa, Okla., at the tippy-top of their late-night newscasts with a (pardon us) full-court press last Friday were KVVU-TV, Channel 5, KLAS-TV, Channel 8 and KTNV-TV, Channel 13.

Newswise? Three-pointer.

Meanwhile, KSNV-TV, Channel 3 relegated the Rebels’ letdown performance all the way down to the night’s seventh story slot.

Newswise? Dead ball.

Filing live stories from Tulsa, channels 8, 13 and 5 all relied on their A-game guys, Chris Maathuis, Doug Kezirian and Kevin Bolinger, respectively. (Absent a regular Fox-5 sports segment, news reporter/substitute anchor Bolinger handles major sports coverage as needed.)

Rather than send its own marquee sports maven, Kevin West, to Tulsa, News-3 settled for a studio-bound West chatting up Ryan Greene of its “media partner,” the Las Vegas Sun — not even a News-3 staff reporter — via Skype, a chintzy-looking feed compared to regular remotes.

On-site competitors aired multiple locker-room interviews with Rebel players and coach Lon Kruger. News-3 sprinkled a couple of news conference quotes. Other channels dispatched reporters for fan reactions locally — Fox 5’s Jon Castagnino and Channel 13’s Marco Villarreal at Buffalo Wild Wings (where Villarreal snared ex-Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian) and Channel 8’s Aaron Drawhorn at the Born and Raised tavern. News-3 didn’t go bar-hopping.

Anemia afflicted News-3’s coverage that night nearly as much as it did the Rebels’ game. Slotted first were stories including a police chase, an apartment fire, a home invasion and a gunman on I-15. Legit stories all and — excuse the seeming callousness here — all like the proverbial bus. Miss one, and another will pull up to the curb again shortly.

Despite declining stand-alone sports segments nationwide — Fox-5 dumped its in 2009 — big sports stories are still a community unifier. Viewers, by and large, are more emotionally invested in them than yet another night’s crime/accident/fire stories that are sad but mostly distant and voyeuristic, good for ogling only.

Shared communal interest should justify lead-story status and deployment of resources – even if, as with the Rebels, it’s shared communal disappointment.

Rebels basketball is a big-time tie among Las Vegans, as are the viewers’ everyday sports experiences: ferrying kids to Little League, soccer, softball and volleyball practice; volunteering as coaches, referees and umpires; even kvetching to friends about their high-school football injuries that ended what surely would’ve been spectacular, lucrative pro careers. (Fantasies die hard, don’t they, grown-ups?)

Dwindling sports segments have been victimized by competing sources such as ESPN, other sports networks, websites, blogs and Twitter. Yet many local stations commit self-sabotage, stubbornly parroting big-league news, scores and highlights rather than going hyper-local to tap into the community’s sports interests here at home that aren’t covered elsewhere.

Even if sports segments are doomed as a species, single standout stories deserve their shot atop a newscast’s lineup.

Benching them is unsportsmanlike.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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